Monday 8 February 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Dead in a Dumpster by B.L. Blair

Leah Norwood owns and operates Scents and Sensibility, a fragrance shop in a Texas shopping center. When the manager of the antique store next door turns up dead (in a dumpster), Leah quickly becomes a suspect as well as a potential victim. To clear her name, she takes on the role of amateur detective and tries to solve the mystery herself. That's when the trouble really begins. Dead in a Dumpster by B.L. Blair is a cozy mystery with a healthy dash of potential romance sprinkled in. The main character is likeable as are most of the supporting cast. Dead in a Dumpster is a light and easy read, reminiscent of the TV series Murder She Wrote. This story grabs the reader's attention and doesn't let go until the very end.

That said, the book is written in first person, past tense which is often very difficult to pull off. Blair makes a valiant effort but, for this reviewer, it was the story's undoing. Leah came across like that annoying friend who talks endlessly about every detail without letting you get a word in edgewise. You know, the kind you want to shake and tell to get on with it. This carries throughout the novel, with detailed descriptions of where the shop is located, single-scene characters (e.g. the Sunday lunch) or the route taken to get to a potential suspect's house and two hotels. Alongside this was a general tendency to lapse into telling rather than showing. For example, in the opening chapter, Leah tells the reader what a horrible morning she’s had rather than letting the reader experience it with her. As a result, the book leaves you with the same sense you have when you’ve gone to lunch with a friend who’s told you (in great detail) about all the exciting things that happened to her rather than actually getting to see it through her eyes. It's interesting and engaging but your involvement is distant and removed. You simply don't feel Leah's frustration, attraction, horror or fear.

At times, plot plausibility was also an issue for this reviewer, particularly the conduct of the law enforcement characters. For example, the new police chief (and main love interest) seemed far too familiar with Leah (who is not only a civilian but also a witness and former suspect) and willing to give her information about the murder and other ongoing investigations. The identity of the killer also seemed a bit too signposted early on.

Despite these issues, Blair succeeds in providing an entertaining and captivating read.  It is perfect reading for a lazy afternoon or rainy day.

3 of 5 Stars

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